Today, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that LGBT sexual equality “rights” trump religious beliefs in the case against Trinity Western University.  This news came as a harsh blow against religious freedom in Canada.

In a consecutive (First Ruling) (Second Ruling) 7-2 ruling against Trinity Western University, the court decided that it was “proportionate and reasonable” for the law societies in British Columbia and Ontario to refuse accreditation to future students due to the proposed Christian law school’s “community covenant” discriminates against the rights of the LGBTQ.

Trinity Western University

NewYork1956 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The ruling stated, “In our respectful view, the [law societies] decision not to accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school represents a proportionate balance between the limitation on the Charter right at issue and the statutory objectives the [law societies] sought to pursue.”

This means that future graduates from Trinity Western University’s law school will not be able to be licensed to practise law in Ontario and British Columbia.

Trinity Western University is a private college which is associated with the Evangelical Free Church.  It requires students to sign a commitment to remain sexually pure, and not to engage in activity that would “violate the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Judges who ruled in this case were: Rosalie Abella, Michael Moldaver, Andromache Karakatsanis, Richard Wagner and Clement Gascon.  The majority felt that the law society’s decision was reasonable.

Then- Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and Justice Malcolm Rowe agreed, however for different reasons.

Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote on appeal by the Law Society of British Columbia,“Freedom of religion protects the rights of religious adherents to hold and express beliefs through both individual and communal practices. Where a religious practice impacts others, however, this can be taken into account at the balancing stage. In this case, the effect of the mandatory Covenant is to restrict the conduct of others,”

Meanwhile Justice Malcolm Rowe felt that LSBC’s decision prevents harm to LGBTQ people who may feel that they have no other option but to attend Trinity Western University’s law school.  He felt the damage done to these individuals would be that they would have to deny who they are in order to receive an education.  He found that the requirements by the University’s religious beliefs regarding conduct that goes against someone’s sexual identity to be “degrading and disrespectful”.

The Supreme Court heard two appeals from Trinity Western University and the Law Society of British Columbia, arguments from 32 interveners, represented by 56 lawyers November 30 to December 1 of last year.

Then- Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin decided in August to allow all 26 LGBTQ interveners which over-ruled a decision made by Justice Richard Wagner to decrease the list so that it could fit into a one-day hearing.  McLachlin’s decision came after  LGBTQ activists complained on Twitter.  Subsequently, the Supreme Court took the rare occurrence of issuing a press release explaining the decision.

The ruling on Friday ends a legal trail which began when the University applied in 2012 to open a law school, and was challenged by law societies in British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

The refusal to grant accreditation to graduates was based on the grounds that the Trinity Western University’s covenant was in violation with Charter equality provisions by discriminating against homosexuals, bisexuals, transgendered people, and those with a different moral sexual code.

The University fought the ruling in all provinces under the premise that the Charter equally protects freedom of religion.  Subsequently, it won in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, but lost in Ontario when the case was appealed in a ruling that the covenant was discriminatory to the LGBTQ community.

Interveners included Ontario’s Liberal government who compared the University’s covenant to treating LGBTQ people as Ontario treated Jewish people 200 years ago when they banned non-Christians from becoming lawyers.

Other groups intervening against Trinity Western University were: West Coast LEAF, Start Proud, Eagle Canada Human Rights Trust, British Columbia Humanist Association, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans People of the University of Toronto, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Those for, included Catholic Civil Rights League, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Association for Reformed Political Action, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, and the National Calition of Catholic Trustees Association.


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